• Do's and Don't s for your February garden

    • The celebrity Dahlia Cafe au Lait is sure to be a favourite this summer

      Do start off dahlia cuttings: If you want to take cuttings it's time to get your tubers sprouting! Start them off as soon as you receive them by placing them in large pots or deep trays with a generous helping of a general purpose compost. Partly fill your container to half cover the tuber and water (without allowing the water inside the tuber). When the shoots are around 8cm use a sharp knife to cut them away from the crown just above where they join the tuber. Trim off any growth under the top pair of leaves, dip in hormone rooting powder then pot up using John Innes No.2.  As the stems develop, pinch out any growth from the middle of the cutting to help create a bushy plant. Harden off before planting out around May.  Do keep an eye out for slugs and snails that will feast on your young plants.

    • Do care for your soil: Healthy soil is the key to all good growing so take some time to enrich yours before the spring gets started. Dig in plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure or leaf mould and, if your soil tends to be heavy, add some sharp sand or grit.
    • Don't cut back perennials: It's still too early to cut back the old growth from perennial plants. Leave the old growth to protect the new emerging shoots until early spring.
    • Do move shrubs: If you have any shrubs in the wrong place, now is the time to move them while they're still dormant.
    • Do deal with pests: Look out for any pests that have been hibernating and destroy them before they have a change to breed and cause havoc.
    • Don't use old compost: Old compost is a favourite hiding place for vine weevil larvae that destroy plants by munching on their roots. Clean post with jays fluid to ensure there are no germs left behind and fill with fresh compost.
    • Do remove weeds: Emerging weeds can be pulled up as they start to appear to prevent them from sowing seeds and becoming an invasive problem over the summer months.
  • Top tips for clearing snails and slugs from your garden

    Did you know that one in five of Britain’s gardeners admitted to dropping their snails over the fence? How naughty! And it doesn't work either. They just crawl their way back. However, a new study in the Physica Scripta journal shows that if the snail is moved by a much greater distance, of around 20 metres, it no longer returns. It seems that at this distance, the snail’s homing instinct is nullified. We decided to try it out and had a bit of fun re-housing our snails in nearby parkland.

    Some other good remedies are:

    • Remove weeds & rotting veg so slugs can't hide under them
    • Epsom Salts will deter them and also prevent magnesium deficiency in your plants
    • Make friends with your local barber and ask for the hair clippings! Sprinkle a thin layer of human, cat or dog hair around your plants and the slugs won't go on it. The hair will also add plant-feeding nitrogen to the soil as it slowly decomposes.
    • Open a Bar! Fill a shallow bowl with beer and wait overnight, then dispose of the boozy snails and slugs in the morning.
    • Eat half a grapefruit for breakfast and then use it as a slug trap. Put a couple of small holes in each side and then turn it upside down. Slugs love grapefruit and will gather to eat it, instead of your plants. Put the grapefruit, slugs and all, onto your compost.
    • If you have any watery areas or a pond in your garden, then visiting toads and frogs will snack on snails and slugs. Yum!? Avoid pesticides on your plants though or that will deter the frogs.

    We'd love to hear of any other tips that have worked for you - share your slimy success stories with us and we'll post them.

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